As the 2019-2020 Rock Creek Select season ends and the 2020-2021 season begins, the organization is saying goodbye to the graduated seniors from the 18U Premier team. Danny Anderson, Nolan Sparks, Ethan Blechschmidt, Parker Goin, Kyler Gerber, Richard Reding, Ian McIntosh, Kole Bennett, and Colton Wilson are all moving on to new chapters this fall.
Each player looked back on some of their favorite memories from their Rock Creek careers. Anderson, Sparks, Blechschmidt, Gerber, and Wilson said one of their favorite memories was winning the Palouse Summer Series, specifically beating New Level. The 18U Premier team had battled with them previously that summer fall short. This time however, the boys from Rock Creek got to see what it felt like to beat their rival. Senior Ethan Blechschmidt said, “it felt like we were on cloud nine.”
“We took that tournament away from them,” Blechschmidt said.
The winning play came down to second baseman Kyler Gerber, fielding the final ground ball hit to him in the bottom of the seventh; he made the last out, ending the game and securing the championship for Rock Creek. Everyone ran to the mound and got in a dogpile to celebrate. Gerber said this was one of the greatest feelings in the world.
Looking back on their Rock Creek Creek careers, Goin, Gerber, and Reding all said their favorite memories were playing in the hotel pools with their teammates and coaches when they weren’t on the field. Goin and Gerber said one specific time, the team was in the pool messing around when their coach jumped in to tackle them. Little did their coach know, however, he was about to get two massive cramps in his hamstrings, leading him to need help getting out of the pool. This memory still makes the boys crack up laughing. Reding said times like these, “us being boys,” are the ones they will cherish forever. Being a part of a team with some of your best friends makes for a lot of time spent creating unforgettable memories, on and off the field.
One thing has been made clear, the lessons these young players have learned from their time at Rock Creek can apply in baseball and life in general. From Anderson saying he learned you can never work too hard, to Goin’s lesson of hard work paying off, Rock Creek helped grow talented athletes, but also good men. Sparks said he learned to not take any moment for granted, and play every game like it’s your last. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the season was cut short this summer, so the time that was given to the team was appreciated even more. Blechschmidt learned to respect the opposing team no matter what, and to always walk with class on the field. Last year, Rock Creek was playing in the Cam Christian Memorial Tournament, which is a tournament held in honor of a young player who died in a car crash. Rock Creek played their way to the championship but ultimately came up short. Blechschmidt said he remembered Cam’s dad coming up to him and his teammates after the game to thank them for playing the way they did, regardless that they lost. Blechschmidt said Cam’s dad told them he thought Cam would have been happy with the way they played that day; the team reminded him of his son.
Richard Reding, who played in the Rock Creek program for 8 years, learned “you can always learn more; don’t ever be satisfied with what you know in the present moment, because someone else always knows something you don’t, and can teach you”. Wilson said the lesson he learned while playing at Rock Creek was “whatever happens, happens.” Don't let one play affect your next move and attitude the rest of the game; you can’t control what happened in the past. This mentality can be applied on and off the field. Gerber said the 18U coaches were not only coaching him and his teammates as baseball players, but more so as good men.
“It’s more than baseball,” Gerber said.
Rock Creek’s goal is to help get their players to the college level and beyond after they leave the organization, and this is the case for almost every graduated senior this past season; the team touched base on how their coaches from Rock Creek helped prepare them for the next level. There was a common theme in what the guys had to say about some of their coaches, Dave Wainhouse, Millard Dawson, and Doug Christie; they genuinely cared about their success, and always pushed them to be better athletes and people. Before the season even began, the coaches would make sure the upcoming season was going to be on the right track for their players by asking this question, according to Goin:
“Do you want us to teach you like a select team, or like a college team to prepare you for your futures?”
This simple question set the tone for what the season was going to look like, and it taught the 18U players that their coaches want to see them be the best versions of themselves, which implies they will be coached like they are already on a college team. Reding said Smart and Wainhouse were always at practice to challenge them during their younger years; they were tough on them, but that’s what shaped them into the players they are today. Blechschmidt moved from team to team a lot growing up, but he said once he hit Rock Creek, he had no desire to be anywhere else. He said 18U Premier assistant coach Doug Christie was a great coach and Wainhouse helped him with the physical and mental part of the game, specifically as a pitcher. Blechschmidt also said head coach Millard Dawson taught them how to carry themselves during and after a game, teaching them a game should always be played with class. One of the most important details about the coaches is they are incredibly experienced; Wainhouse played seven seasons in the MLB, and Christie and Dawson both played in college. This made for very good advice on what to do in certain situations on the field, according to McIntosh.
“These coaches knew things and taught me things that I wouldn’t have ever known before,” McIntosh said.
Once players are in their later years at Rock Creek, Wilson said the coaching becomes more centered toward life, rather than just the game.
“The coaching staff focuses more on helping us grow as people, not forcing us to win every single game,” Wilson said.
“They put in just as much as effort, if not more, as I did to get me to the next level,” Anderson said.
Moving on from high school and Rock Creek, each player is looking forward to their upcoming next chapter of college baseball. Anderson, who is attending Lindfield University this fall and will be playing for their baseball team in the spring, is most looking forward to improving his skills and meeting a lot of new people. Everett Community College is gaining Sparks, who looks forward to living in the present moment and taking it all in before he hopefully moves onto a four-year school. Three players, Blechschmidt, Goin, and Reding, are going to Pierce College. Blechschmidt said he’s a little scared to play college baseball because he won’t be alongside the people he has been playing with for years. It is always a strange at first, to take this big leap away from what you know, but Blechschmidt is eager to see how good of a player he can be with college level instruction.
“I want to see what I can do for myself, and the team,” Blechschmidt said.
Goin, like his teammates, is excited to form new bonds with his college teammates and coaches in this new experience. Reding looks forward to taking this next step into the game and seeing what else he can learn in college. Gerber is attending Pacific Lutheran University and is also looking forward to forming new relationships; he said teammates are always extremely special to the game and will always be close to you. Bennett will be playing for Bellevue College and is happy to get the chance to make a new family in college baseball. He said when you’re playing, you see those same people every single day, so creating relationships with them is the best part of the game. McIntosh will be playing for Bellevue College, and said he is looking forward to being able to be one of the guys others can look to for advice, being a great team player and pitcher, and hopefully finding his place as a starter or closer.
“I just really enjoy the game and am looking forward to this fresh start with a new team, teammates and coaches,” McIntosh said.
The coaches at Rock Creek are excited to keep up with these players and see how far these young men they coached this past year, and for years before, will go in their athletic careers and lives.